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Pirates plunder Canmore Pentathlon: swashbuckling swimmers back in the water following long pause.....

The Parkland Pirates get their “hands in” for a team cheer following their last practice before departing for the Canmore Pentathlon.


The Parkland Pirates Swim Club began their fall competitive season with an emphatic team victory at the Canmore Pentathlon finishing in first place, a whopping 618 points ahead of their closest competitor!

Among the many great performances, the swimmers aged 12 and under were particularly impressive. PSAA student-athletes Anna Penny, Sydney Guertin-Bougerolle, Peyton Tucker, Elise Cooke, and Sydney Tucker accounted for 5 of the top 6 individual finishes at the event. Their 13 and under counterparts were equally successful with Haylee Beeler and Zoe Van Keulen finishing 1st and 4th respectively. The very next weekend, a mere 45 minutes east on highway 16, Dakota Dotzlaf, another PSAA student-athlete, had an impressive showing at the Calgary Speed Meet. Finishing 3rd in both the 200m individual medley and the 100m backstroke, Dakota achieved Western Canadian time standards in both events. 

Overall, it was a weekend filled with personal bests, provincial times, and a great deal of pride for the young Pirates. Coach Ryan MacDonald had nothing but praise for his young contingent,

“These results were in large part due to a year of preparation, in and out of the pool, during a difficult year of lockdowns. The swimmers maintained a ‘can do’ attitude and trained hard throughout.” 

The Canmore Pentathlon and the Calgary Speed Meet were the first official competitions for the Pirates in over a calendar year, making these results that much sweeter. “Going into the meet I knew the majority of the races would result in personal best times, but I didn't expect the girls to dominate to the degree that they did,” coach MacDonald said referring to the preparation leading up to the meets. “It was a great way to kick off our year.” 

The Pirates have since competed in the Poppy Invitational Swim Meet at the Kinsmen Centre in Edmonton, finding similar success. They will continue competing at various swim meets throughout the remainder of the school year. 

‘Cooke’-ing with oil

Elise Cooke, grade 6 student at PSAA, has been leaving her competition in her wake, literally. Toward the end of October, Swim Alberta named Elise a top 5 swimmer in the province (based on 10 years of data, averaged for a top 5 baseline) after their summer session. So far this season, she’s shown no signs of slowing down. Recently, at the Poppy Invitational Swim Meet in Edmonton Elise scored several provincial qualifications including two sought after championship times in 200m Freestyle (2:26.01) and the 200m Breaststroke (3:10.05). For Cooke, these times represent validation, “Achieving championship times boosted my confidence,” she said when asked about her recent success, “it showed me that my efforts were worth it and that I was getting better.” Displaying a true mastery-orientation, the young swimmer didn’t even realize what she had achieved until twenty minutes following the completion of the race, “I was focusing on racing hard, I just wanted to beat my times.” Now, with the veil lifted, Cooke is ready to meet her upcoming opportunities head on, “Championships is a big meet, it’s exciting and scary all at the same time!” she explained. “I am just going to remember that I earned it, that I deserve to be there, and then I’m going to do my best!” 

Connecting the ‘Dotz”

Dakota Dotzlaf, a grade 9 French Immersion student with both PSAA and École Broxton Park School, has also been making waves early in the 2021 competitive season. So far this year Dakota has earned four Western Canadian standard times. For the swimming lay-people out there (of which I no longer consider myself one) Western Canadians is a special meet that occurs once a year. Swimmers have to achieve exemplary times just to earn an invitation. Dakota has already achieved qualifying times in 200m Individual Medley (2:27.04), 200m Backstroke (2:23.75), 100m Backstroke (1:06.58) and the 50m Backstroke (30.21). When asked about her recent success, the humble Dotzlaf hesitated. Her mother, on the other hand, beaming with pride, spoke highly of her daughter. “Her commitment to her sport, her drive, it’s astounding,” she explained. Such intrinsic motivation is rare among athletes in general, let alone one so young. Eventually, with some prying and convincing, Dakota elaborated on where she draws her inspiration, “I have always wanted to prove people wrong. I’m the type of person who if I’m told I can’t do something, I go and do it,” she explained. A necessary characteristic for someone chasing dreams bigger than the seven foot tall Eiffel Tower model on her lawn. To Dakota the Olympics aren’t a concept or an idea, they are a goal, and the goal occurs in Paris, 2024. “I was 9 years old when the 2016 Olympics happened. I watched Penny Oleksiak, an unknown swimmer who wasn’t expected to do anything, win multiple medals, that’s when I knew I wanted to be an Olympian.” Her earnest and determined tone would make any would-be gambler think twice about betting against her. Dakota has been overcoming the odds her whole life and I don’t think she’ll be stopping anytime soon.


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